We all remember our parents telling us how lucky we have it as kids. How when they were kids things were so different. We didn’t really care back then that our lives were easier since we didn’t have to walk 10 miles in the snow uphill both ways to get to school (even in August) or that they didn’t have the luxury of an allowance so if they wanted or needed money they had to work. It wasn’t our fault for being born when we were; technically it was theirs, so why get frustrated at us for something we had no control over?
I now understand that frustration and the exasperation of trying to keep my children appreciative of what they have. And I dare to admit it, I have uttered those very same words I hated to hear myself when I was young, “You have no idea how lucky you are.” So I have decided to give you a brief checklist to show your children just how lucky they in fact are. I must warn you though; just writing them made me feel like my application for a Seniors Living Center in Cary or Pinehurst should be printed off and started. Of course, if they have a swimming pool and they help me remember where my keys are in the morning it might not be a bad idea.
- We had no cell phones growing up. In this day and age if you are in High School (and some Middle Schools) and don’t have a cell phone you are not a TRUE teenager. And if your phone doesn’t text you’re dead in the water with the kids. But we have come to reply on cell phones as adults too. Are your children home from school? Forget the home phone (if you still have one) and call their cell phone. Because even if they aren’t home you’ll know where they are. The good thing about the cell phone is only needing to give out one phone number and you’re accessible any time of the day or night. Unlike our childhood where we had to stay in the house to wait for the phone to ring. And if your Mom sent you to the store for milk, chances are you missed your phone call. No matter how fast you got there, when you got home that phone call was missed.
- We had twelve channels as kids and we remember when HBO was only ONE channel. There was no Noggin, Nickelodeon and Disney. Children’s shows were on Saturday morning and that was it except for PBS showing Sesame Street, Electric Company and Zoom! during the week in the morning. If you were home during the day and the TV was on, you were watching soap operas or not watching TV at all. Now we have thousands of channels and kids can watch TV 24 hours a day if we let them. But one thing has remained constant from generation to generation; when you go through the TV guide there is nothing on you want to watch.
- DVR’s and Tivo were non-existent. Nowadays if you know you’re going to miss a show you REALLY want to see you can set your DVR to record it and go about your day. Back then not so much. When I was six or seven they started introducing the VCR and a new way to watch TV was born. But it was frustrating compared to what we have now. We had to make sure we had a tape that was not already in use; you knew NEVER to tape over General Hospital that your Mom set up. And if you caught a show on TV that you wanted to record that was no quick feat. You scrambled to find a tape, put it in and try to get it set up to record all before missing something. It was a comedy scene in and of itself. But that mad dash usually meant you taped over your Mom’s General Hospital; and of course it was the one she hadn’t seen yet. It also occassionally meant that the tape would get jammed and come out so you better know how to wind it back in. And if it snapped, you could tape it back together but that usually meant you lost 15 minutes of whatever was recorded on it.
- The Internet was a good plot for a science fiction show. If we had a report due we had to go to the library or actually use those Encyclopedias Aunt Mary bought you for Christmas one year. We usually ended up at the library the afternoon before it was due praying the book on The Civil War was not checked out by another classmate; or if it was, that they returned it already because they were studious. Chances were more likely it was out and it was coming the day after the report was due. Now kids go online and research anything they want to. They don’t have to know the “Dewey Decimal System” because chances are the library is not frequented as often for research material. I am happy to say though that every time I bring my children to the library there are always lots of other kids there reading for fun. But kids just peruse the books and never really use the search features.
- A computer was not standard in every house. Growing up I remember my Mom teaching how to type on her IBM Selectric II. It was an electric typewriter and we had our white out sheets in case I made a mistake typing and we were all set. We even had a typing class in my High School. Computers didn’t really come out for household use until the 1980’s. They were bulky and information was stored on 5 1/4″ floppy discs that didn’t hold much information. The computers now do so much and so quickly that kids would not have had the patience with our old Tandy or Radio Shack TRS-80.
- Video games were not multi-player online games. Our Atari 2600 had 2 joysticks and came with Combat as the game to play. We eventually ended up getting Pac-Man, Pitfall, Frogger and Space Invaders. If the cartridge didn’t seem to work right, we would take it out and blow on it and then put it back in. If we were playing multi-player it was because we were letting our friends take turns. Video games then progressed to Commodore 64, ColecoVision, Nintendo, Sega, Genesis and finally the PlayStation. If our kids knew how the video game system has morphed over the years it could be a thesis for them to do in college.
- No GPS system for driving. OK, so this one may cause the men to cringe more than the kids but it’s true. We used these things called Maps and we had to understand the color coding and what each type of line meant. This is the main reason we, as Moms, give directions according to landmarks and colors. We always held the map and gave the directions; we WERE the GPS system. It was second nature for us to see a red line and know it was a road under construction or a solid double blue line was an interstate. Now we get GPS on our phones so we can never get lost again; much to the delight of the rest of the family. It also means never having to memorize how the map folded back into itself once you opened it up.
- No portable TV’s or DVD players. If you were an only child you entertained yourself with counting cars or cows or gas stations. You also brought along toys like Merlin or Simon to play; at least until Mom said to turn it off because you were driving her nuts! If you had siblings you spent the entire time claiming your space and aggravating your siblings by putting your hand on their side. Which of course was followed by: “Mom, he’s bothering me!” which meant your Mom would give you the “Don’t make me pull over!” speech. As we got older we were able to offer our parents some relief on the electronic noise with the introduction of the Sony Walkman so now not only did they not have to hear our music; we didn’t have to listen to theirs either.
There are other ways in which our kids have it easier but at this point they probably have that dead stare wondering when the reading will stop if you’re reading it to them. I will grant their wish and end the comparisons, for now. Just know that a version 2.0 will be coming and will probably be just as long.
Do you as a Mom have one thing that you remember most about your child that is very different today? Post it in the comments and maybe I can add it to the next round I do. And if you want to see when that article gets posted subscribe to my column and you’ll get it in your inbox!